Alberta stroke treatment now among fastest in world, AHS says

Alberta stroke treatment now among fastest in world, AHS says

Alberta's stroke treatment centres are now among the fastest in the world in giving patients a clot-busting drug that can save lives, Alberta Health Services said Monday.

The drug is tPA, or tissue Plasminogen Activator.

A year-long quality improvement initiative has seen the average "door-to-needle" time it takes from a patient's arrival at hospital to being diagnosed with stroke and injected with tPA cut nearly in half, from 70 minutes to 36 minutes.

In a news release Monday, AHS said an improvement of that degree and across such a large geographical area has not been reported anywhere in the world.

A similar effort in the United States saw average door-to-needle times in participating hospitals drop from 74 minutes to 59.

"For many years now, the accepted benchmark has been to treat patients within 60 minutes of their arrival at hospital," said Dr. Michael Hill, a Calgary-based stroke neurologist.

"But we know that by doing better, we can improve outcomes for patients by preventing or limiting long-term disabilities. And when we can give stroke patients better chances to fully recover, we also eliminate potential downstream costs to the health system."

Hill is principal investigator in a quality improvement and research program, funded by Alberta Innovates, called QuICR, Quality Improvement & Clinical Research – Alberta Stroke Program.

During an ischemic stroke, in which blood supply to the brain is blocked, about two million brain cells die every minute and about 12 kilometres of neural connections are lost.

Edmonton's Grey Nuns holds record

Noreen Kamal, project manager for QuICR, said improvements have been made in all Alberta stroke centres in the past year — at large hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary but also in smaller centres such as Fort McMurray, Westlock, Red Deer and smaller facilities such as the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton.

The Grey Nuns currently holds the provincial record with the fastest door-to-needle time — six minutes.

"Improvements like this are life-changing for Albertans, and an example of the teamwork and innovative thinking that are helping to strengthen our health system to ensure all Albertans have the care they need when they need it," said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.